Should we respond to every positive review?
This is a question that came up several times during the recently completed Hospitality Marketing Summit conference where I spoke on managing reviews. It's a great question.
Obviously it makes all kinds of sense to respond to negative reviews. It allows you to address both that particular customer's issues and more importantly put the concerns of future prospects to rest. It makes sense to have a plan in place to do so to both minimize the damage and maximize the opportunity.
But positive reviews are different. It is all too easy, when responding to positive reviews, to sound at best perfunctory and worse, insincere. The answer to the question of whether you should respond to positive reviews, in my opinion, is that it depends. It depends on the where the review was left, what was said and whether you can add value to the overall conversation.
Where it was left: You need to respect the norms of the community of where the review was left. On Google, there is little social context and very few posters expect an owner reply to a review. There, I would generally not respond to just say thank you.
On the other hand, I think that a review left on Facebook is a different animal. Facebook, by its nature, is an ongoing conversation and the standard within the community is to engage in the conversation. I think that a response in that context is very appropriate and offers an opportunity to increase your client's engagement with your business page. With Facebook rapidly becoming a preferred review site for both clients and businesses, you should plan on both monitoring and commenting on every review that occurs there.
Yelp, in my opinion, is more like Google than Facebook in this regard. While there is a community, it is really not a one-to-one community, but rather a community of reviewers that speaks to one another. There is a very low tolerance for BS and the conversation tends to the snarky side. I think responding to every positive review there could actually be negatively construed by some Yelpers.
Adding to the conversation: Reviews help not only to position your company as competent but they also act as a way to properly qualify customers. You really don't want every customer in the world coming to you. Well, maybe you do. But if you think about it, you want those customers that you can really help and who will appreciate your services. Some folks really are better off going someplace else and reviews can help users decide that. The reality is that you can't make everyone happy and if you can help those customers that are not well-suited to your services to not choose you, everyone is better off.
Thus, I do think that on both Yelp and Google there are situations where you might respond to a positive review. That is when you can respond sincerely AND when you can also add significant value for either the poster or future readers of the review by providing additional details about what you do or how you do it.
The example that came up at the B & B session was a situation where a particular inn was decorating with a very eclectic set of furniture and artwork that was perhaps more historical than it was aesthetic. Some folks really appreciated the touch. But the innkeeper was aware that a few did not. In that case, responding to a positive review about the decor might allow the innkeeper to expand on both the type of furniture and why they had chosen it. This would help educate potential future customers to both attract those that would appreciate the historic nature and discourage those that might prefer a more consistent ambiance.
Responding Privately: This suggestion was made by Rob Zaleski on my G+ post and it's a good one. If in doubt, respond privately to the poster. If you do not want to appear overly solicitous and can't find the right public response to a positive review, it is often appropriate to contact the user privately and thank them for the review.
What about the other review sites? There are roughly 50 review sites so it is impossible to address each of them. But ask yourself these two questions about the ones that you work with:
- What are the social norms of the review site?
- Can I add value to the conversation?
Then you should be able to decide on a tactic for any particular review site that you find valuable.
I would love to hear your ideas and opinions on this. Do you recommend responding to every positive review? If so why and how? If not why not? Let me know.
(Photo via Creative Commons.)